Friday, April 14, 2017

Urban rambling : Chief Sealth Trail

Chief Sealth Trail Route Map

Last summer while completing the Seattle Stairway 100K, I came across the Chief Sealth Trail and vowed to go back and walk it someday. I had even discovered that there's a bus that runs from one end to the other -- for a perfect short adventure.

The trail may not be the most scenic, but I think it's a great example of creating recreational space in the middle of a city. Built in the greenway underneath huge power pylons, the trail is fully accessible and used recycled material from the Link Light Rail project. The trail clearly gets used: even on a weekday when the skies were threatening to open up, I saw several people out exercising along it.

With a lot on my mind and an unexpectedly free day I decided to finally make it happen. I drove out to 15th Avenue S and S Angeline Street, parked, and jumped on the trail.

North end of the Chief Sealth Trail
I was a little surprised at the number of ups and downs -- far from being relatively flat, like a rail trail, this trail had a lot of hills. And when it was hilly, the trail wound back and forth -- I suspect to make it less steep so that it was safer for wheelchairs.

The trail passes near houses and garages. I kept being surprised by the street patterns in the area -- lots of narrow little streets. And some nice art:

The trail was in excellent condition and quite clean -- despite not seeing any garbage cans along it, I also didn't see any garbage.

Did I mention the skies were threatening? The light was weird and kept changing.

And on this cloudy day, I came to a sweet little artwork, on opposite sides of a road:

No straight stretches here, just sinuous curves.

When I got a little farther south, I believe in the New Holly neighborhood, these bluebell lamps appeared alongside the trail.

When I looked at the trail map before heading out, there was one stretch which was inexplicably skipped. It wasn't even clear how one might connect the two, really.

I looked at the satellite view -- what might cause this break? Nothing obvious...

Well, then I got there, the signage was a little confusing. I think I could have gone through some neighborhood streets and eventually climbed to the top of the hill and rejoined the trail at S. Webster Street. Or I could just do what a lot of people had clearly done, and climb the grassy hill under the power lines. I should point out that there are no fences, no NO TRESPASSING signs, etc. I suspect that the slope was just steeper than could easily have been adapted to accommodate wheelchair users, so the trail was routed around more gradual hills.

The hill was pretty waterlogged and there was a lot of mud in that grass, making climbing surprisingly slow. But I made it to the top with no problems. Looking back it doesn't look super steep, but it was the steepest climb of the day. In the picture below you can clearly see the trail coming down the hill until it meets the road, and then no trail coming up the hill.

But then I was back on track.

The remainder of the trail was much the same. Just a peaceful, mostly traffic free trip through south Seattle. With a lot of hills.

I was almost surprised to come to the end of the trail, but suddenly, there it was.

I crossed 51st Avenue South, and within 5 minutes was on a bus heading back to my car. I opened the back hatch, changed out of my hiking boots, and got into the driver's seat just as the torrential downpour started. How's that for excellent timing?

This was a fun trail, and a great resource for people in the neighborhood. Signage was good, and there are plenty of access points.

Chief Sealth Trail

4.32 miles
336 feet elevation gain

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